There’s a casualness to these images, suggestions that Kwon was a part of the scene, not a disturbance. She was raised in New Haven, the third and youngest child of Korean immigrants. She arrived in Manhattan in the eighties, a time when hip-hop was slowly taking over the city. The epicenters of this world-changing music were hidden in plain sight: side-street restaurants where the best d.j.s in the world would play weeknight after-hours parties, record labels run out of co-working spaces and P.O. boxes, night clubs tucked in between warehouses, radio stations that broadcast from the basements of otherwise anonymous high-rises.
We’ve become inured to the storytelling power of images, and also to the labor it once required to get a perfect shot. Back then, intimacy was something to be earned, not given away online. Artists saw no point in appearing vulnerable. Kwon abetted the mythmaking of hip-hop stars, but she was allowed to show them candidly as normal people, too, and we feel lucky for these glimpses of our heroes doing everyday things. There’s a moving collection of photos featuring rappers and their children: Method Man, Fat Joe, Prodigy and Havoc of Mobb Deep. Big Noyd, who never sounded particularly genial on wax, grinning with his daughter.